by Doug Lawrence
From all eternity, up until the physical conception and subsequent birth of Jesus Christ … in the flesh … man perceived God as a mysterious, awesomely powerful, largely unknowable being, whose divine essence was thought to consist of pure spirit.
Christmas fundamentally changed man’s perception of God as well as the reality of his divine person-hood, since we know now that God, as part of his true nature … assumed a distinctive, eternal, human soul, along with a (now) resurrected and glorified human body. A body that is presumably … fully compatible with both heaven and earth.
So, after Jesus’ relatively short, earthly human existence was complete, it would have been quite appropriate, as well as completely truthful, to exclaim, “My God, how you’ve changed!”
The terms of God’s New Covenant substantially incorporate and memorialize that profound change in many ways, none more important than the definitive liturgical sacrifice of the New Covenant … the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass … where the memorial symbolism of the traditional Hebrew Passover Feast is replaced by the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ … the true Lamb of God … who takes away the sins of the world.
Jesus did that … just as he subsequently suffered and died for us … in the flesh … and as one of us, in every way … except for sin.
Hence, from that moment forward, anyone who desires to fully worship Jesus Christ … in spirit and truth … i.e. “body and spirit” … can no longer be fully satisfied with his spiritual presence alone, despite the way some choose to interpret the following passage:
Again I say to you, that if two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning anything whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven. For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:19-20)
It’s very nice to know that God is listening to our prayers, and that he is there for us, whenever we gather in his name, but the difference (to we human faithful) between God being present in a purely spiritual sense and being truly physically present for us … body, blood, soul and divinity … as in the Holy Eucharist … is a difference of such magnitude that it is impossible to put into words.
If it wasn’t for the incarnation, where God took on flesh and became one of us, in order to save us from our sins and reconcile heaven and earth, we would all still be hopelessly enslaved to Satan, sin and death.
Catholics incorporate all of this and more into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the essential liturgy given to us by Christ himself, at the Last Supper, where we give correct praise and proper worship to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit … with, in and through Jesus, who is the perfect mediator and who remains the only acceptable sacrifice for sin … becoming truly present for us on the altar, at every Mass.
Presented with a sacrifice such as this, we can be assured that God will always find it pleasing and acceptable, and that he will graciously respond, even in the face of our many iniquities and human failings, since at least one of us humans present there (Jesus) has already attained divine perfection.
Without Jesus Christ, truly present, body, blood, soul and divinity … God with us … at the very center of our divine worship … we miserable sinners have very little to offer up to God. But at Mass … with Christ, in Christ, and through Christ … in the unity of the Holy Spirit … we have the ability to invariably please God, become the recipients of all his graces … and successfully maintain in our hearts the blessed hope of spending an eternity with him, in heaven.
Attempting to worship God any other way begs the question: Why would God have gone to all the trouble of becoming man, instituting the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, becoming a living sacrifice for the sins of the world, rising again from the dead and personally founding his one holy, Catholic and apostolic Church, if not to have things done the way he set them up?